Like most people, I have no use for Tim Russert. No, check that. Most people have no use for Tim Russert. I think he can always serve as a bad example.
Recently--holiday week, I think--Fresh Air filled out some vacation time with Terry Gross interviews with Rock n Rollers, and I caught part of the Iggy Pop piece (as I recall it, Jimbo's the only Godfather of Punk who can not only use the word "inchoate" in a sentence but pronounce it correctly) and Terry had asked him something about his childhood influences and he talked about the experience of having Crosby Stills and Nash, e.g., as countercultural icons one minute and turning around the next to find they're all fat.
Russert's fat. In Iggy's sense. Bill Bennett fat. He's fat not because he spends too many free hours at home in the kitchen, surrounded by the best ingredients he could find, fussing over some sensuous delight of Irish cuisine (joke). He's fat because he gets too many meals and cocktails comp'd and sees too many checks picked up by the sort of people he's supposed to have an adversarial relationship with. Under the circumstances it should, in fact, be far too easy to remain thin. This may explain why I'd rather listen to George Will for an entire afternoon than a half-hour of Russert, not that I'm not volunteering as a test subject. (There was some sort of weird antipodal synchronicity on this point Sunday when Will started spouting off in favor of "delinking the economy and the health care system", by which he meant using tax powers to tell private enterprise it was okay to pull the plug on workers' health coverage. Funny how junkets and country club memberships and limo rides to the studio never count as burdensome expenses.)
So anyhow, it's not that Russert's an ideological hack but that he's a celebrity hairdresser with a book deal. On the rare occasions when I tune him in and he's not playing schnauzer for Dick Cheney he's relentlessly grilling people on their relationship with the conventional wisdom, which has, over the years, become indistinguishable from Tim Russert's wisdom. (He used to be good, children, as a young reporter in the 70s, but maybe it's just that the warm breezes of convention were at my back more often in them days.) And then there's the matter of his spilling over onto the regular news, a sort of reverse Barbara Walters, which is just a bad idea in the first place made worse by that little voice in your head that tells you, as Russert is busy "explaining" some fine point of politics that might escape the average Joe, that you should remember to check the crankcase for sawdust.
Anyhow, the first half of Sunday's Tim Russert Comedy Hour, which I missed, included an interview with Mike Huckabee (recounted by Mustang Bobby, per Norbizness. ) And it looks for all the world like Russert was coming close to grilling Huckabee, at least in Russert terms, and that piqued my interest. I don't think Timmy takes marching orders from the Grand Republican Council of Evil or anything--why would they bother?--but I had to wonder whether that meant anything.
It's the case of the Dog That Didn't Bark. I don't remember Russert grilling Honest John McCain about his spiritual rebirth. Could some deeper purpose be glimpsed here, if only in shadow?
Now, let me join millions of Americans in saying "I don't give a shit." No, check that. Millions of Americans don't give a shit; I say it doesn't matter whether I do or not. Still, an interesting line of thought opened up, if by "interesting" you mean "boring shit about an election two years away that nobody, especially me, is going to handicap accurately at this point".
First, it's interesting that the respective races appear to turn on precisely opposite qualities: Democrats aren't going to be able to hide their records, while Republicans may be forced to (viz. McCain, Romney), since the fundamentalists still control the primaries.
You may remember that along about the time of the Schiavo brouhaha the moneyed Right caught wind of the existence of the so-called social so-called conservatives and realized there might be a problem down the road. This, of course, was merely the cusp of Everything Turning To Shit for them, so the calculations may have changed somewhat. But our operating principle here is that the money boys want Rudy. McCain stepped on his dick two years ago, on his way to fluff the C-in-C, and that was pretty much it. He had to blow Falwell after that, and now his support among "moderates" and "independents" (or as we like to call them, "the uninformed") has disappeared. He's was forced to jump in front of the war parade just as the thundershower hit. Besides he's a "maverick", which means that while he's venal enough he can't be counted on not to do something sensible when the chips are down.
Everybody else is competing for the Brownback Dollar, notably Mitt, who has shown the sort of enthusiasm for the process that could get a group of bikers acquitted of gang-rape charges. So I can't quite understand why someone's trying publicly to push Mike Huckabee to the right of where he already is. The earlier he has to compete for Fundamentalist Fun Bucks the earlier he's out on his ass, and the bigger the pile left for Stem Cell Sam. Early knockouts are great for Brownback. Rudy needs everybody to stay in as long as possible.
On the other hand, supposing you think Rudy's already toast despite that early "lead", you prefer Mitt's "What's my position supposed to be today?" over Huckabee and would want to push the latter off his "conservative with centrist sympathies" track. Again, I'm not sayin' this is what Russert was up to; maybe it was something he ate. It was just an interesting distraction for an idle moment. And I'm still sticking to what I said in December 2000: the fundies are going to name the nominee this time, not get sold out in some backroom by Ralph Reed. Despite having made every attempt over the last half-decade to convince the rest of the country they are indeed an bunch of toothless inbred snake-handlers, they've still got the reins. The leadership may now be wishing they didn't have to follow George W., but there you are, and besides, we might end up with a woman or a Muslim otherwise. I give the edge to Brownback. Is it too early to call Vegas?